I had dinner with my nephew tonight. It was the first time I’d seen him since school started, so of course I had to ask him the usual questions: How do you like your teacher? Do you have lots of homework? Are any of your friends in your class? He answered so enthusiastically that he loves his teacher because she’s nice, he has homework but “it’s easy,” and he’s…. We never got to the friend question because his mom stopped us at the homework talk. “Speaking of homework, I can’t seem to get him to remember to bring his homework home. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone back up to school to get his homework after hours,” she said.
“I can help you with that,” I replied. “Charge him for gas and your time!”
I’m sure many parents are familiar with a similar scenario where the child forgets homework at school, forgets soccer shoes at home, or leaves the favorite cuddling blanket or animal over a friend’s house. And they become frustrated at repeatedly having to make extra trips to school, back home, or over to friends’ to get the forgotten items. Rightfully so! Not only does it take extra time, it does use unneeded gas, and it uses energy we parents could be spending on doing something else.
However, when parents are doing all of the running in circles, they are the ones who are owning the problems…instead of the children. Children don’t see the parents running amuck as an inconvenience to them, so the poor behavior continues. In order for behavior to change, kids’ must take ownership of their problems. It is then that problems become their responsibility to solve, and they start to see that as an inconvenience to them so the poor behavior stops.
If my nephew gets charged for gas and time, he will see that as an inconvenience to him rather than mom. Once he realizes that he is going to have to pay up each time he forgets his homework, the bad behavior will stop and he will surprisingly (sarcastic intonation) start remembering to bring his homework home from school.
Of course, the term “pay up” can be interpreted loosely. Perhaps it really is in cash form where the money is deducted from allowance or a savings bank, or it can come in the form of chores.
The conversation goes a little like this:
“Well honey, since you forgot your homework and the gas to get back up to school costs money and takes away from time I could be working, you’re going to need to pay me for the gas and my time used.”
“Well honey, since you forgot your teddy bear at your friend’s house, that’s going to take time away from the time I set aside for cleaning the house today. I guess you’re going to have to do some extra chores to help me get it finished.”
Certainly, you assign them to clean the toilets!